Because this book is good, let me first dispose of my only criticism. The basic text is only 186 pages long: 1 page is a map of Latin America. Yet there are 25 pages containing 658 endnotes—an additional 72 footnotes are scattered about— and another 32 pages are tables. The tables are terribly informative—I know of no other source with such valuable information in one place—but they should have been put in an appendix at the end of the book, not within it. Much of the book looks like a statistical abstract, a fault of the editors, not the author, whose writing and analysis are exciting.
The main goals of Bishara Bahbah (and of Linda Butler, whose name appears on the title page but not on the book’s cover) are to show that “Israeli-Latin American relations [are] now dominated by the military component,” and to shed “light on the Israeli arms industry and export policies, and their implications and consequences both for Israel and the areas in which it operates” (p. 3). Bahbah begins with a chapter on “Arms Exports and Israeli Government Policy”; moves on to discuss the reasons for the development of the Israeli arms industry, “the emergence of Latin America as Israel’s major arms market” (p. 86), case studies of arms sales to Ecuador and Argentina, and Israel’s experiences in Central America (particularly Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua); and concludes with an excellent chapter that assesses the economic, political, and moral aspects of Israel’s arms export and military training programs.
We learn that “no country in the world is as dependent on arms sales”; that “Israel is the largest per capita arms exporter in the world”; that as many as 120,000 Israelis, or “up to 40 percent of the industrial labor force and close to 10 percent of the total labor force are employed in the arms industries” (pp. 6-7); and that at least 18 Latin American countries have bought what Israel has to offer militarily. Also, since no other region in the Third World has been so consistently supportive of Israel from its inception, Israel has never had to dangle weapons and military training before the Latin Americans as a political inducement. “If anything, the traditional pattern of using arms sales to assist diplomacy has been reversed, and (in Latin America) diplomacy appears to be in the service of arms sales” (p. 71). For reasons which Bahbah discusses at length, Israel sells arms to Latin American countries without concern for their internal political complexion, including their record on human rights.
Latin Americanists, Middle East specialists, or students of the military who buy and read this book will have wasted neither their money nor their time.